On January 9th I stood in the Lihue airport on the island of Kauai and said goodbye—again—to my daughter Bryn. As you may recall, Bryn lives in Wellington where she dances for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. When she first moved there around 14 months ago, we were a little bit frightened and more than a little bit nervous, but we shared with her the eager anticipation that comes with adventure. She was only 19 but about to take on an exotic new job in an exotic location. For all of its attendant anxiety, the whole thing was very exciting for all of us.
A year later, much of that excitement has passed. The mystery is mostly gone, the unanswered questions mostly answered. And so the job is just a job, and the location, though still exotic, seems (somehow) much farther away. Our farewell in Lihue felt different as a consequence. Instead of eager anticipation for that first communication from afar, we stood there wondering when we might see our daughter again. We all cried. I didn’t like it.
I thought at the time of our many friends who have stood by similar ropes at similar airport security lines, sending their children off into the great unknown as they embark on full-time missions for our church. Within the last several months we have seen seven members of the Santiago Creek Ward head out to serve: in Washington, Texas, North Carolina, Chile, Scotland, Croatia, and New Zealand. All seven have left behind anxious loved ones. And all have left eager to serve.
In return, the Church has sent to the Santiago Creek Ward four exceptional young people from around the United States: Sister Laulusa (Ohio), Sister Longhurst (Idaho), Elder Long (Tennessee), and Elder Parent (Michigan). They are bright lights who are full of faith and dedication. More to the point, they carry with them the Spirit of God—you can feel it in their presence. And because they have been commissioned of Christ, if you spend any time with them at all and get a chance to hear their uplifting message of hope, one of three things is likely to happen:
- You will feel an increased closeness to God.
- You will gain a greater sense of peace and happiness.
- You will gain an increased understanding of your purpose in life.
I realize those are bold promises, but I do not make them casually or without basis. I’ve been around these young people, and I know. Which is why I suggest that if you are interested in any of the things I listed above, you should invite them into your home some time. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. Maybe you could just have them over for dinner or something and spend a few minutes getting to know them. Imagine drawing closer to God and receiving a greater sense of peace and happiness in exchange for a ham sandwich and cup of milk. That’s not a bad deal.
Just the other day, in fact, I was sitting at the office when a familiar song by Simon and Garfunkel came onto my computer’s music feed. It’s a song my daughter and I have sung often (and poorly) while sitting side-by-side at the family piano. The melody disrupted my concentration, and a great sense of melancholy settled over me as I thought about my girl and how long it might be before we’ll be seated side-by-side again. And while Sister Longhurst and Sister Laulusa may be poor surrogates for my own 20-year-old girl, that song seemed as good an excuse as any to invite them over—and soon. It would bless my family. And God knows I could use the lift.